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teach us with what qualifications it is to be understood. For while it asserts, in the strong language of emotion and eastern hyperbole,“ that all were gone aside, all together become filthy, none that did good, no, not one, the writer seems wholly unconscious of a design to have his language understood according to its literal import; for he immediately goes on with expressions absolutely incompatible with such a meaning. He goes on to speak of a “people of God, a generation of the righteous, whose refuge was God." The same is the case with each of the other Psalms, quoted by Paul in his Epistle to the Romans.
But it is of little comparative importance, whether the authors of the Psalms, or the Apostle in quoting them, meant to be understood as expressing a general truth in popular language, or as expressing themselves with literal philosophical exactness. Understand them in the most unlimited, unqualified sense, of which their words are capable, they express only what no one will deny, that all men are sinners. The question will still be open, as before, how this universality of sin and great corruption of manners are to be accounted for. Whether, as the advocates of Orthodoxy contend, men come into the world with a corrupt nature, prone only to wickedness, and utterly incapable of any good thought or action, till renewed by an influence of the holy spirit, which they can do nothing to procure; or as Unitarians believe, this corrupt nature is not what they received from God, but what they have made for themselves. That they were not made sinners, but became so by yielding to temptations, which it was in their power to resist, by obeying the impulse of the passions, and the calls of appetite, in opposition to the direction of reason and the notices of conscience; by subjecting themselves to the dominion of the inferior part of their nature, instead of putting themselves under the guidance of their superior faculties.
Questions may be asked upon this statement, which cannot be answered, because we have not faculties which enable us in any cases to trace things up to the first cause and spring of action. But no diffi. culty so great and insurmountable meets us, as, on the opposite theory, is the moral difficulty in which it involves the character of the Author of our being. When we have traced back the wickedness of men, as it actually exists, to the voluntary neglect, and perversion, and abuse of the nature God has given them, we can go no farther.
It is asserted, (pp. 38, 39) “ that when we read in the Bible the highest descriptions of human wickedness in the old world, in Sodom, in Canaan, in Jerusalem; or of the wickedness of individuals, as Pharaoh, Saul, Jeroboam, and Judas; it is perfectly just and natural for us to reflect, such is human nature, such is man; and Orthodox writers reason in an unexceptionable manner, when they undertake to show, what human nature is, from the description which is given of the wickedness of man in the Old Testament."
The writer, I think, must perceive that he has expressed himself rashly or carelessly, when he considers clearly the force and bearing of what he has said in the above paragraph. Are we to consider those places, which, singled out and distinguished from all others, are expressly declared to have been destroyed for their enormous and incorrigible wickedness, as fair representatives of the usual state and character of the human race? People, who were ordered to be wholly extirpated for the very purpose of stopping the contagion of their vices, preventing the spread of the infection, and serving as a warning to other nations to prevent their becoming like them ? Are Pharaoh, Jeroboam, and Judas, fair examples and representatives of human nature ? Men, singled out in a history of two thousand years, as instances of uncommon wickedness, visited with as uncommon tokens of retributory justice? Let it be asked, why the cruelty and obstinacy of Pharaoh, rather than the humanity, and piety, and meekness of Moses ; why the idolatry, and unprincipled ambition, and selfishness of Jeroboam, rather than the piety, tenderness of conscience, and public spirit of Josiah ; why the single wretch, who was so base and sordid as to sell and betray his Master, rather than the eleven, who were true and faithful to him, should be selected as specimens of the race to which they belong, and the great community of which they make a part ?
Would you select the period of seven years' famine, as an example of the usual fertility of Egypt? The desolating pestilence in the days of David, as a fair specimen of the salubrity of the climate of Israel ?
Would you go to a lazar-house or hospital, rather than to the fields, the wharves, and the factories, to know what is the usual state of human health and activity ? Is an ideot or a madman a just specimen of the human intellect? Or are we to find in our prisons, and at the gallows, in highwaymen, pirates, and murderers, a true index to point out the general morals of the community ?
It is unnecessary to multiply remarks on the next text brought to prove human depravity. (Jer. xvii. 9) 66 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Admit that it relates to a prevailing trait in the human character; do we not well know, that in the common use of language, such general expressions are seldom to be understood as universal in their application ? They are to be understood in a limited and popular sense. What is more than this, though the text were intended to express a trait of character absolutely universal, it has no more relation to the question respecting the source of human wickedness, whether it be natural or acquired, than any other descriptions of prevalent wickedness in the world. But the total irrelevancy of the text to the purpose for which it is brought, appears best by considering the subject matter, about which it is introduced. The prophet is stating the safety of trusting in God, and the insecurity of trusting in man. The reason is, that men are deceitful, and not to be depended on. Now this reason would be good, and support the prophet's conclusion, though deceit and treachery were not the universal, though they were not even the general character of men. Were there many to be found, who would deceive and betray, it would be sufficient to justify the prophet, in withdrawing men from their confidence in man, and teaching them to place it in him, who can never fail, and will never deceive. And it would sufficiently account for his adding in the next verse,
“ I the Lord search the heart." However deceitful men may be, and able to impose on men; there is one, who is able to detect, and will not fail to punish.
From the New Testament, the first passage selected, as implying the doctrine under consideration, is the answer of Christ to Nicodemus, (John iii. 3) “ Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” It is contended, (pp. 42, 43) that the universal necessity of regeneration, expressed in this text, implies universal depravity. “That this necessity of a moral renovation arises from the character man possesses in consequence of his natural birth; that all must be born again, because, and only because, all without exception are, by nature, or in consequence of their natural birth, in such a state of moral impurity, as disqualifies them for the enjoyments of heaven, unless they are renewed by the holy spirit.”
A single consideration convinces me, that the inference is without foundation, and that the universal necessity of regeneration may consist with original innocency, and exemption from any prevailing tendency, as we are born into the world, to vice rather than